Child sitting in a red seat in a theatre auditorium

Oh baby! It’s a theatre for a new generation

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Image captionThe ‘Born in the Borough’ campaign pledges to give all borough newborns unrivalled artistic opportunities through their first quarter of a century

To mark its 125th anniversary, Hammersmith’s Lyric is recruiting babies born in the borough to join a special artistic club.

The theatre complex in Lyric Square, which began life on 20 July 1895, is using its birthday as a springboard to bond with children born in Hammersmith & Fulham over the coming year and build a relationship with them for the next 25 years.

The ‘Born in the Borough’ campaign pledges to give all borough newborns unrivalled artistic opportunities through their first quarter of a century.

“I’ve always known that community is the lifeblood of a producing theatre,” explained artistic director Rachel O’Riordan. “My hope is that Born in the Borough will ensure that all our ‘125 babies’ will develop a lifelong love of the arts.”

Register your baby

Parents of babies born in H&F between 20 July this year and 20 July 2021 are being encouraged to register their children.

Once the theatre reopens after lockdown, the children will be encouraged to enjoy special participation in Little Lyric activities (aged up to 11), Young Lyric and the full theatre.

Although the precise details will have to wait until the theatre fully reopens, it is expected to include free entry to some shows (especially the annual pantomime) and opportunities to take part in all aspects of life at the Lyric, including possible career openings.

“We’re not trying to make every baby born in the borough an actor on stage,” reassured a theatre spokeswoman. “But there are many opportunities from age 0-25; behind the scenes, in dance classes, music, film and technical areas too.”

Lyric; 125 years at the heart of Hammersmith
Image caption: The Lyric is celebrating 125 years in Hammersmith

Panto to open

While the coronavirus has played havoc with the theatre’s 2020 programme, life will resume when Aladdin – this year’s pantomime – opens in mid-November.

Sian Alexander, the Lyric’s executive director, said that the new project would reinforce the theatre’s links with the community. “It’s our gift to Hammersmith & Fulham,” she said. “We want to inspire the next generation of west Londoners and ensure they can benefit from a creative and cultural childhood.”

Over the coming year the Lyric will attempt to reach as many parents as possible whose babies will qualify for the offer.

Parents and guardians will be asked to register their child as a ‘Lyric 125 Baby’ by emailing 125Baby@lyric.co.uk

Roots

The Lyric had its roots in a small theatre in Bradmore Grove, Hammersmith in 1888, before opening as the New Lyric Opera House in 1895.

By the 1940s it had gained an international reputation for experimental drama, attracting to its stage such names as Richard Burton, John Gielgud, Alec Guiness, Dora Bryan and Peter Ustinov.

A campaign to save the theatre in the 1960s and 70s culminated in its reopening by The Queen in 1979.

By the 1990s the entrance to the theatre moved round the corner from King Street into Lyric Square, heralding a new era where the focus was on engaging with west London’s young people, and using drama to help disadvantaged youngsters carve out careers in the arts.

Further expansion in 2015 has created the multi-purpose spaces, studios and stages of today, including a complete restoration of the main house.

Outside of the Lyric Theatre building in Hammersmith
Image caption: Aladdin – this year’s pantomime – opens in mid-November

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